About the Norwalk Symphony Orchestra

The Norwalk Symphony Orchestra is a passionate group of professional musicians serving Norwalk and its neighboring towns, the heart of Fairfield County. Its mission is to provide friends with the opportunity to explore and discover the joys of orchestral music in an informal fashion. For over 70 years, the Norwalk Symphony Orchestra has been a vital part of the fabric of the communities it serves and continues to enrich audiences’ cultural experience through live performances, pre-concert discussions and educational activities for all ages. Its mission is to provide audiences with the opportunity to explore and discover the joys of orchestral music.

The History of the Norwalk Symphony Orchestra

The Norwalk Symphony Orchestra (NSO) was founded in January. 1939. From that year to approximately 1985, the Norwalk Symphony was primarily a community orchestra composed of volunteer musicians from the greater Norwalk region. In 1956, the Norwalk Youth Symphony was formed, and younger musicians from surrounding communities were frequently invited to be part of the orchestra. All rehearsals and performances were held in what is currently the Norwalk Concert Hall, formerly the WPA-era high school auditorium, and support for the organization came from the family and friends of the orchestra members.

The first Music Director of the Norwalk Symphony, Edward Kreiner, conducted the premier concert on May 9, 1939. A year later, the celebrated Ouinto Maganini, a Pulitzer prize winning composer and principal flute for the New York Symphony, began his 26-year tenure as the Orchestra’s Conductor and Music Director. Maestro Maganini had an enormous influence on the NSO and the community of Norwalk. He presented the Symphony’s first youth concerts and premiered several new compositions, including his own, successfully developing audience interest in newer music. Programming was quite varied and at times adventurous, and the orchestra began playing larger works such as Mahler symphonies and other classic repertoire. Guest soloists with the orchestra were drawn both from the local scene, as were artists that were developing their careers including Yo Yo Ma, ltzhak Pearlman and Emanuel Ax.

Following Maestro Maganini’s retirement in 1967, Dennis Russell Davis conducted the orchestra from 1969 to 1973, and was succeeded by Gilbert Levine from 1974 to 1980. During this period, the orchcslra’s artistic vision and musicianship developed greatly. The Music Director from 1980 to 2000 was Jesse Levine, who expanded the musical aspirations of the NSO as well as demanded an increasingly rigorous standard of performance from its musicians. Pops concerts, local touring concerts and children’s concerts were established, as well as the Quinto Maganini Award in Composition, a national competition for a world premier performed by the NSO during its regular season. This period also saw the profile of the musicians shift dramatically, to a fully paid professional orchestra.

At the opening concert of the 2002-2003 season, Diane Wittry made her debut as Music Director and Conductor of the Norwalk Symphony Orchestra. She completed her seventh season as the Music Director and Conductor NSO. Maestro  Wittry brought an enthusiasm for music and a commitment to education and outreach in the community. Her ideas for collaborating with community groups have broadened and expanded the concert experience. Her many talents will be displayed in her new endeavors.

Norwalk Symphony now opens a new chapter under the direction of only its seventh Musical Director/Conductor. Jonathan Yates, a professional who possesses enormous talent and already has a musical resume that is envious. We look forward to exciting programs from him which will further expand the Symphony art form and enhance experience of a Symphonic concert for our existing and new patrons. Please view his Bio and you will see why we feel very fortunate that he has chosen to join us and to creatively lead NSO into your hearts and into the future.

You can read more about the history of the Norwalk Symphony Orchestra at the American Towns website.